Karen Simpson provides an illuminating overview of the history and function of the Paekākāriki Surf Lifesaving Club. In continuous operation since 1913, saving many lives and providing numerous community services, the Club is now in desperate need of a new building. This is where the community comes in – it’s time to give back to this essential organisation to ensure its survival.
For the last 109 years, the Paekākāriki Surf Lifeguards have been keeping the community on the Kāpiti Coast safe on and around the water. We were the first ‘country’ lifesaving club in New Zealand established in 1913 and we have a proud history of lifesaving for over a century. Even through two World Wars our club remained strong. When our menfolk went off to war, their wives and sisters stepped into the void, training as female lifeguards, until then virtually unheard of, who continued to patrol and provide a platform for women in lifesaving and sport even when the soldiers returned.
Since the first building we have had another three reincarnations of the club. The current building is number four. But never in this time have we been without a surf lifeguarding service in Paekākāriki .
In the past two decades the way we patrol has changed – from patrolling in front of the Club to performing rescues and lifesaving activities all the way along the Coast form Pukerua Bay to Waikanae, including going out to Kāpiti Island for search and rescue operations. Over this time we have saved more than 1000 lives and performed hundreds of thousands of ‘preventative’ actions.
The beach coastline is the biggest recreational facility on the Kāpiti Coast. We are often called out when kayakers, surfers and swimmers are spotted in danger from Paraparaumu, Raumati and Waikanae and we are called out around Kāpiti Island to perform search and rescue operations.
As well as the on-water rescues, we are also called upon in many other ways:
- Called into Queen Elizabeth Park for first aid and emergency medical services for the public
- Provide water safety education to primary schools
- Provide event safety to the Kāpiti Women’s Triathlon and other community events
- Provide lifeguards for school beach trips and other community groups from all over the region
- Surf sport for all ages which is great for the health and wellbeing of our members, channels kids into lifeguarding, and keeps their skills and fitness honed
- 24/7 callout service
We have over 300 members ranging from 7 to 80 with around 80 qualified and highly skilled lifeguards, over 150 nippers and a massive range of volunteers.
Our primary job is to save lives but in doing this we are also developing community minded, skilled people. Kids come into our club with little confidence in the water, or even in themselves, and leave with a greater sense of purpose and skills which develop them into great young adults. This in turn builds stronger communities.
People are the lifeblood of our organisation but in order to do this essential work we need equipment and facilities and somewhere for our lifeguards to operate from.
View a video of the Club here.
The surf club spends tens of thousands of dollars every year to ensure we have the equipment required to fulfil our lifeguarding and sporting obligation. And now we have the massive outlay of replacing our facility to cope with the increased equipment, people and storage requirements.
Our building has been failing for a number of years but we have managed to remain operational. We were hoping to have another couple of years of life in her, but sadly in July 2021 the building was deemed unsafe for occupation. This has been a huge shock to us all and has meant we have had to fast-track our plans.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR?
In 2011 we had a feasibility study completed around the needs of the growing club, the changing way in which lifesaving operates, as well as considering wider community use for what will be an iconic facility.
There was a huge amount of consultation and we’ve worked really hard with Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and the local community to find the best location for the building. The good news is that we have finally secured a lease through GWRC in Queen Elizabeth Park that mitigates the issue of coastal retreat and provides a wonderful opportunity for the wider Kāpiti community.
We have finalised the design and many aspects of the engineering reports and we have Resource Consent documents ready to be submitted by Cuttriss Consulting. We have a local contractor ready to push ‘go’ and local earthmoving contractors ready to start digging. In essence, we are ready to build.
To date we have spent over $80,000 on the project and have had $60,000 of in-kind donations. We have $300,000 of club funds to put towards the project.
SO WHAT NOW?
The project cost has escalated to $5m over the past 11 years. Many of the road blocks we have faced in the last 11 years have now been removed – the final hurdle remaining is the funding.
For 109 years we have helped our community – now we need your help!
WHAT DO WE NEED?
In short, we need money! Big or small, every amount will count. We have a Give-a-Little page (Search ‘1913’ on the Give-a-Little site to become a 1913 Club Member). Please donate or contact [email protected] if you’d like to donate directly to the club or to discuss how you can help.
We are also looking for ‘in-kind’ sponsorship. If you have a skill, business or product you’d like to donate please contact Karen.
The urgency for the project comes at us from three directions:
- We are losing members
This season, due to operating out of containers and with no changing/toilet facilities we are already starting to lose members. It makes everything we do difficult and cold. Our only saving grace this year was that the weather was so good. If there is no progress on the building soon, next year we will lose more members, and by 2024/25 we could be closing down our service.
- We are losing funding opportunities
The longer we wait to secure a cornerstone funder, the more funding applications we miss.
- Prices are increasing
With every passing day building costs are skyrocketing.
THE LEGACY OF THE BUILDING
This is a legacy you will leave for not only this generation – but for future generations to come.
Paekākāriki.nz is a community-built, funded and run website. All funds go to weekly running costs, with huge amounts of professional work donated behind the scenes. If you can help financially, at a time when many supporting local businesses are hurting, we have launched a donation gateway.